On Thursday, April 11th, Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange was arrested by British authorities outside of the Ecuadorian embassy after his asylum status was terminated. Shortly thereafter the United States Justice Department released an indictment charging Assange for a single count of “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer”. Assange now faces possible extradition to the U.S. where, if convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.
The CWA Canada Student/Associate Members take the arrest of Mr Assange very seriously and are particularly worried about the dangerous precedent that any prosecution would set as this would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations. Furthermore, this indictment, at its core, is attempting to criminalize many common journalistic practices such as; encouraging sources to provide more information in the public interest, using an encrypted chat messenger, and protecting the anonymity of their sources. We are gravely concerned about the chilling effect that this unconstitutional act will have on press freedom in the U.S. and around the world.
These charges come at a time when the President in the White House has already proven to be hostile towards the media. This creates a slippery slope to future punishment of any journalist that the Trump administration chooses to label as “fake news”. We cannot help but fear for the safety of our colleagues in the U.S. who have repeatedly been deemed the “enemy of the people”. Whatever your personal thoughts on Assange, the charges against him represent an attack on press freedom and should be strongly opposed by all who claim to stand for a free press.
The CWA Canada Associate Membership Program Steering Committee